Politics of Factionalism in Pakistan through Lens of History

"Factionalism plays a significant role in determining or influencing how political parties operate within society, with implications for democracy"

Politics of Factionalism in Pakistan through Lens of History

Our country is one of few countries which do not teach history as a compulsory subject. Instead, Pakistan Studies is a compulsory subject with monocausal description and interpretation under the pertinent perspective. As a result, the level of political consciousness and understanding of history is alarming. In addition, a significant chunk of Pakistan's population belongs to millennials and Generation Z, who had yet to witness or read about the power politics of factionalism in the past. So, the recent splitting of PTI into factions is not a phenomenon. It is the same old wine in a new bottle.

Political parties are paramount for effective and functional democracies. Therefore, it comprises structures, orders, and hierarchy like an organisation and is affected by several external and internal factors. The political parties which have weak ideological bases can face the issue of factionalism. A faction can be defined as a collective group or alliance that operates within and often opposes a larger entity, such as a nation or political organisation. It can also be described as internal disagreement within a group.

Theoretically, there are two main perspectives on factions and political parties. First, according to modernisation theory, factions can be seen as prototype parties or types of party organisation that precede more advanced "modern" parties. In this context, factions are considered a feature of the initial phases of the so-called modernisation process, where individuals and groups have departed from traditional political behaviours. However, there is still limited political involvement and institutional establishment. Second, the majority of research represents factions as subgroups within political parties. However, these intra-party groups have numerous interpretations, with each study offering a unique viewpoint. 

Ferdinand Müller Rommel's understanding of the faction is most relevant in Pakistan's politics. He wrote: "The faction arises in the power struggle and represents a division on details of application and not on principles."

After the demise of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the ideological difference, personal cum intra-party rivalries and personality cults began to sharpen. In retrospect, the first was a stalwart from East Pakistan, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, who questioned the party's policy of disconnecting from the masses. Consequently, he parted ways and formed the All Pakistan Awami Muslim League (APAML) in 1949. Next was Iftikhar Mamdot, a trusted lieutenant of Jinnah. Due to differences between Liaquat Ali and the internal politics of Punjab, he left the party and, in 1949, formed the Jinnah Muslim League (JML). Later, in 1950, APAML and JML merged to form the Jinnah Awami Muslim League (JAML). Mian Iftikharuddin, a left-leaning league member whose political thought was not getting space in the party policy after Jinnah's death, set up the Azad Pakistan Party (APP) in 1949. With reference to Sindh from 1952-1954, intraparty paved the way for the creation of the Sindh Muslim League (SML) by Ayub Khukro. In 1953, before the provincial elections, the Jinnah Awami Muslim League changed its name to Jinnah Awami League JAL and became why Iftikhar Mamdot existed. In 1956, the Jinnah Awami League changed into the Awami League, dominated by the idea of Bengali nationalism.

On the eve of Ayub's dictatorial rule, political parties were banned in October 1958. Then, in July 1962, the Political Parties Act was introduced. There was a political difference among the league leaders on Ayub's Dictatorship. Thus, a faction who preferred to be part of the power corridor decided to join Ayub Khan and Ch Khaliquzzaman to become the chief organiser. This faction was known as the Conventional Muslim League (ConML). Those who supported the ideology were known as the Council Muslim League (CL), and Khwaja Nizamuddin became the party's president. In the declining years of Ayub Khan, a Muslim League leader, Abdul Qayyum Khan, established a Qayyam Muslim League (QML). After the 1970 elections, he joined Bhutto's cabinet as the minister for Interior. Here, it is important to mention that he is the same one who remained in the Indian National Congress, a great admirer of Bacha Khan, and was an antagonist towards Muhammad Ali Jinnah's political ideology. However, when he joined AIML in 1945, he took a political U-turn and started criticizing Bacha Khan. In post-partition time, he imposed his own book, and further, he was the man behind the Babrra massacre on 12th August 1948. Later on, before the 1977 general elections, he distanced himself from the cabinet and contested the election from (QML). In 1972, CML and ConML decided to merge under the presidentship of Hasan A Shiekh and after one year, the Pir of Pagara, an influential political and spiritual figure the party president. Due to General Zia's unconstitutional rule, the Pir of Pagara supported him. During that time, Khawaja Khairuddin's decision to oppose martial Law was a silver lining in the dark cloud, and it gave birth to the Muslim League (Khairuddin) in 1978.

After the 1985 non-party election, Muhammad Khan Junejo became Prime Minister. In 1988, Zia dismissed Junejo's government, resulting in a division in which two groups emerged, PML (Pro-Junejo) and PML (Pro-Zia), led by Fida Muhammad Khan and Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. After Zia's plane crash, a right-wing alliance, Islami Jamhori Ittehad (IJI), both PML factions became integral. The electoral performance of Nawaz's group in 1988 created a smooth ground for Nawaz Sharif to emerge as the new face of PML leadership. In the 1990s, the PML (Junejo) politicians Hamid Nasir Chatta and Manzoor Wattoo supported PPP. In the aftermath of Musharraf's Martial Law and Sharif's move to Saudi Arabia, a pro-Musharraf faction emerged in PML(N). This faction made PML (Quaid-e-Azam). The other two factions are Pakistan Muslim League Zia, formed by Ijaz-ul-Haq, and Awami Muslim League (AML), headed by Shiekh Rasheed Ahmed.

The presence of factions can significantly impact how political parties carry out their duties and responsibilities toward society and the state. These tasks are crucial for the proper functioning of democratic systems. Factionalism can affect party stability and institutionalisation and influence the efficiency and legitimacy of political parties and entire political systems. In summary, factionalism plays a significant role in determining or influencing how political parties operate within society, with implications for democracy. Pakistan's political history suggests that the factors behind the transformation of faction into a sustainable political party are popular acceptance, personality cult and the art of shaping the political narrative. However, political parties need to promote a democratic culture within the party, ownership of party workers and elected organised hierarchy from the level of the Union Council to the Central Executive Committee.